“Love loves to love love.”
Have you encountered this quote? If so you may be entitled to compensation. I’ve seen it quite a few times in my lifetime and never really knew what to make of it. It’s like in one of those conversations:
“I didn’t hear you.”
The person repeats themselves.
“One more time, please?”
They repeat themselves.
You “Aha!” and nod.
At least now you know what they were talking about, but their full sentence remains a mystery.
It’s like when someone is explaining something, and you kindaaa get it, but you’d stumble on your words if you’d try explaining it to someone else.
That’s what I felt like seeing “Love loves to love love.” I’d think to myself, yes, love loves and it loves to love. I get it, sure.
Another quote I “had a problem with” was this one.
“Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.”The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
If we’re around the same age, you’ve probably already seen it on Tumblr or in a friend’s IM status. Writing this, a decade-old memory resurfaces.
Like many of you (I’m guessing), I also have plentiful meaningless memories on demand. They shouldn’t have been stored in my long-term memory to begin with, but they have been, so now I cherish them whenever they show up.
A friend of mine, who I considered very close, despite having met once in real life, had posted that quote. I messaged her like, “What does this mean? This doesn’t make sense.”
I don’t remember her answer, but I’m guessing my confusion persisted because here we are.
Let me try to debunk this saying.
“Sometimes people are beautiful not in looks.” Okay, we can all agree there.
“But sometimes they’re beautiful not in what they say but in what they are.”
But people aren’t a vision, they’re real, and what they say (and do) makes them who they are. Granted, someone’s inner world is more important than the words they spur out. But the things we say don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re part of us, and in my opinion, it’s a 50/50, or maybe 30/70 rapport. Our wholeness consists of what we say (30%) and what we do (70%).
Now that I think about it, that quote may have been a hit because shy teenagers could relate to it. We couldn’t express ourselves fully and beautifully yet. We were shy, insecure, confused. Maybe the quote reassured a teen that “despite not being pretty or able to express myself verbally, others will notice my real self and find it beautiful.”
But the quote I have an actual huge issue with is this one: “We were perfect for each other, but…”
Let me explain why I want to scream whenever I hear it.
I’m reading a book with a quite literal title: All About Love. It’s not a love book, but a book on love. The author, bell hooks, makes the case for love as a cultural revolution. It got me thinking a lot about love, so here we are.
During the years, I’ve heard “We were perfect for each other, but…” or a version of it more times than I can count.
As that shy, insecure, confused teenager,—well, scratch that, I was shy as a kid, but I overcompensated as a teen by trying to get as much attention as I could for a while—I spoke and heard many friends speak about guys, girls, and relationships. If we’re being honest, to most teens, relationships are the most important thing in the world. Well, maybe also their weight or their skin. Most teenage relationships barely resemble a relationship, but the feelings are very real and valid.
In my teenage years, I felt for my friends and friends of friends who’d been in a relationship with someone perfect for them, but. I didn’t focus much on the “but,” which is literally all I focus on now. The “but” was to blame. It was the sole dealbreaker that got between these amazing couples. I tried to comfort them, even though my arsenal consisted mostly of “If it’s meant to be, it will be.”
As adults, I often see we haven’t made much progress in analyzing relationships. I mean, sure, most people aren’t therapists or emotionally equipped to do so. Most people just want to complain and call their ex an idiot. It’s fine.
However, I believe that we’re lying to ourselves (and others) when we claim our relationship was perfect, but it was just that *insert common reason why relationships don’t work here*.
Three months ago, I read Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. The author, Lori Gottlieb, is a therapist and this is her memoir. As someone who studied psychology, I’m obsessed with first-person narratives from psychologists and therapists. I devoured this book.
I think you should read the entire book, but I’ll include an excerpt below.
Gottlieb was in a relationship with the man of her dreams. They were incredibly happy. Until, one day out of the blue, her partner tells her: “I’ve decided that I can’t live with a kid under my roof for the next ten years.”
Gottlieb bursts out laughing. She explains that she knows there’s nothing funny about what he said, “but given that we’re planning to spend our lives together and I have an eight-year-old, it sounds so ridiculous that I decide it has to be a joke.”
They break up, which knocks Gottlieb over and prompts her to seek therapy herself. She wants to know how this could happen. They both had kids, but her partner’s were grown up. She told him on their first date that she had a kid. He knew all along. What kind of idiot decides at this point in the relationship-years later-that he doesn’t want a kid around?
After a lot of therapy, Gottlieb discovers more about herself, her ex, her fears, and what really happened.
They were perfect, right? If she didn’t have a kid, they’d be the happiest couple on the planet. If he didn’t mind having a kid around, they’d be the happiest couple on the planet. It’s the “but”.
Gottlieb tells her therapist everything she knows about her ex’s history of avoidance. In doing so, she’s “unintentionally illustrating my avoidance of his avoidance—about which apparently I knew quite a bit.”
Her therapist says: “It’s curious, isn’t it, given what you knew about his history, that this is such a shock to you?”
In the book, Gottlieb shares that her therapist “had pointed out that I’d kept my distance from Boyfriend—ignoring clues that would have made his revelation less shocking—because if I’d inquired about them, Boyfriend might have said something I didn’t want to hear. I told myself it meant nothing that he seemed irritated by kids in public places, that he’d happily run errands for us rather than attend my son’s basketball games, that he said it was more important to his ex-wife than to him to have children when they were having fertility problems, and that his brother and sister-in-law stayed in a hotel when they came to visit because Boyfriend didn’t want the commotion of their three kids in his house. And yet, neither he nor I had ever discussed our feelings about children directly. I figured: He’s a dad, he likes kids.”
These passages stuck with me and I think of them whenever I hear “perfect, but” breakup stories.
Were you really perfect together or were you so invested in the idea of them that you wouldn’t allow reality to come between you?
Was she perfect for you or were you so accustomed to having her around that you didn’t want to pay attention to how incompatible you were?
Was he perfect for you and his desire to not be around kids came out of nowhere or had you been avoiding all the signs?
Were you perfect together but distance set you apart or were you never his priority (and never would be, even if you lived within walking distance)?
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”Flannery O’Connor
If we were all honest with ourselves, we wouldn’t tell ourselves this crap about the one that got away and how it was the “but” separated us. The “but” can be: addiction, distance, family issues, many, many, many things.
In How Basecamp blew up, reporter Casey Newton shares what happened in the meeting that led 1/3 of the company to quit. This point that an employee made in the meeting stuck with me:
“The silence in the background is what racism and white supremacy does. It creates that atmosphere that feels suffocating to people. It doesn’t require active malice. It’s not that convenient.”
Racism, sexism, and homophobia “don’t require active malice. It’s not that convenient.”
Similarly, we often believe that unless someone has actively hurt us in a way, then the relationship was fine. That’s often far from the truth.
When I wasn’t working yet, my dad and I used to go to Italy together for our family’s business.
I think fondly of our mornings together- croissants; Italian espressos; beach walks; the hotel’s restaurant filled with natural light, where every table had a vase of flowers on it.
What I don’t think fondly of is my dad’s heated “discussions” with the GPS. Lots of name-calling took place. The GPS would sometimes take us to the wrong address, give us routes on the busiest roads in the city, that kind of stuff. Even when it was right, that could still urge dad to call it names.
But listen, when the GPS took us to the wrong address, we never said, “Oh, okay, this is it. End of the road. Back home now.” Obviously not. We simply changed the route or called our Italian friends so they’d explain it to us, or asked people on the road.
I don’t like overusing the word “perfect,” but surely, when two people are imperfectly perfect together, when they’re made for each other, encountering a “but” wouldn’t imply the end of the road. It’d just mean they have to look for another route on their GPS. How’s that for an analogy?
In All About Love, bell hooks writes:
“Understanding knowledge as an essential element of love is vital because we are daily bombarded with messages that tell us love is about mystery, about that which cannot be known. We see movies in which people are represented as being in love who never talk with one another, who fall into bed without ever discussing their bodies, their sexual needs, their likes and dislikes.”
Love isn’t about that which cannot be known. It’s about the opposite, being each other’s most intimate listeners. Love is… all about love. Love loves to love love.
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